Walmart in Conway was a beehive of activity this past Saturday as shoppers of all ages made their way through the store’s aisles in search of the perfect Christmas gifts.
Many of the shoppers were local youngsters who were treated to a shopping excursion by several area public safety departments.
Members of the Conway Police and Fire departments escorted 20 youngsters through the store as part of their first Shop With a Cop-A Christmas to Remember program.
Each of the kids received $150 to spend on themselves or their family members. They were allowed to purchase whatever they wanted with a few exceptions like weapons and food.
“For a number of years, we’ve adopted a family at Christmas, but this was a decision to reach out to children who otherwise might not have a good Christmas,” Conway Police Chief Reggie Gosnell said. “This will be the premier event we do at Christmas.”
Gloria Wilson, who serves as victim’s advocate for the Conway Police Department, headed up the program, which also included breakfast and lunch for the kids and their families.
“This is all about loving, sharing and giving,” Wilson said. “The most important is love. If we don’t love each other this world will get even worse than it is now. Our plan is to let these kids have a merry good time.”
Sponsors, including the Conway Kiwanis Club, Christ Community Church, Walmart, Conway National Bank, city attorney Sanford Graves and other volunteers donated money for the campaign.
The Kiwanis Club, which has sponsored Christmas parties for special needs kids and given money for back-to-school supplies in recent years, donated $2,000 to the campaign.
“Once again the Conway Kiwanis Club is happy to help children have a wonderful Christmas,” president Ricky Blake said. “This helps us further our outreach with our emphasis on children, and we hope to carry on in the future.”
For Lt. Reggie Hill Saturday brought back memories when he used to take his own two daughters shopping.
“When they were smaller I used to take them around and allow them to pick out a few gifts,” he said. “I remember the smile on their faces so I know these kids will have a blast. It’s all about the kids.”
Saturday was a first for Captain Tammy Carter, who accompanied Nymair Lester as he made his selections.
“I’m so excited,” Carter said. “I love it.”
Johnny Delisle, 10, knew exactly what he wanted as he entered the store with Officer Josh Ray.
“I’m looking for Legos,” he said. “I’m buying my mom something, too. Probably nail polish.”
Ray, who participated in a similar program this past year with officers from the Horry County Police Department, enjoyed the time he spent with Delisle.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Ray said. “Last year, I had two kids and my girlfriend came with me.”
Members of the HCPD sponsored shopping trips on Saturday for approximately 115 kids from the county’s four precincts. More than 20 youngsters from the West precinct that includes the Aynor, Loris and Green Sea areas, were at the Conway Walmart at the same time as their Conway counterparts.
According to Deputy Chief Lance Winburn, the county has been participating in the program for several decades. Like Conway, the names of the participating kids were chosen by the schools they attend.
“This is awesome,” Winburn said. “We look forward to it every year. When you sign up to be a police officer, we know we’re public servants. This is an awesome example of that. It’s an opportunity for us to bond with these young kids and hopefully sway them from making bad decisions in the future. This is one of the things we get to enjoy in police work.”
Also, a group called Concerned Men of the Community from Loris was at the Conway Walmart this past Saturday, treating about a dozen kids to $125 shopping trips.